Vadim has written 57 reviews for films rated ★★★ during 2012.

  • The Man Who Left His Will on Film

    The Man Who Left His Will on Film

    ★★★

    Already in 1970, the Japanese student movement has decayed into petty aphoristic squabbling about personal property and proper political perception, their squabbles a first draft to be revisited and rendered laughable in Regular Lovers et al. (The fierceness of United Red Army is nowhere to be found here.) Confronted with their dead comrade's final film, they're baffled and infuriated by his static shots of anonymous cityscapes, wondering why he made a document so politically hollowed-out. Perhaps there's political intent lurking…

  • Demons

    Demons

    ★★★

    "A tough sit," as they say, and I've got almost nothing. First act's a long con performed on a samurai — something that only becomes obvious gradually, to us and Genko (Katsuo Nakumara). Dramatically very overheated and demonstrative in the usual samurai movie manner, and presumably there's a wealth of political disillusion and subtext in its portrait of a madman performing one-man mass extermination (the protestor becoming as corrupted as the protested, or something). The violence is still effectively bloody. Mostly seems like a technical exercise in finding 100 ways to underlight and selectively shadow stage sets.

  • It's Such a Beautiful Day

    It's Such a Beautiful Day

    ★★★

    TOO BAD I'M DYING AND CAN'T APPRECIATE IT. Don Hertzfeldt is a very funny fellow, and I appreciate him sticking to his stick-figure guns after all these years. I have, nonetheless, significant reservations about watching him do his very own Uncle Boonmee; the contemplative opening "shot" (stop-motion night sky and nothing more) seems like an aggressive, possibly ill-advised attempt to use his chosen medium to go live-action master shot. The multi-frame split-screen and flashing backgrounds are pretty half-assed, and I detect a touch of strained seriousness. But apparently that's mostly just me.

  • No Blade of Grass

    No Blade of Grass

    ★★★

    Not a terribly good movie — the performances are overheated, the dialogue overly blunt — but a remarkably forceful one. Opening montage of global devastation is composed of actual, unstaged contemporary damage to the land (anticipating Bresson's angry montage of ecological destruction in The Devil, Probably), and the film never really loses a sense of imminent wrath. The savagery is all rather overdone, but there's some laughs to be had out of the way people lose their temper with leader…

  • Red Sorghum

    Red Sorghum

    ★★★

    "I am no good with delicate substance," Zhang Yimou admitted in a 1999 interview with "Film Quarterly." True enough, though who could've predicted that Yimou would eventually give up his anti-authoritarian inclinations entirely and become, effectively, an agent of the state? Weird to watch Red Sorghum in that light, even though the film itself was very much a state product: the sorghum was planted by locals on government orders to facilitate filming, and Mo Yan (so I've read anyway) is…

  • Fahrenheit 451

    Fahrenheit 451

    ★★★

    "There will be as many literary references in Fahrenheit 451 as in all Jean-Luc’s eleven movies put together," Truffaut crowed in 1966. It's much more him than Bradbury, which for me is a good thing, shearing the rather overheated prose and premise of the original via the usual to-the-bone editing. Bemused rather than agitated, with really only one (rather out-of-place) expensive touch (flying rocketeer cops). Many of the more hysterical passages, as memory serves, are gone; the Nazis are only…

  • Jean Gentil

    Jean Gentil

    ★★★

    Capsuled here.

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    ★★★

    This scared the living shit out of me when I was 8. I was a wuss. There's some great shots/moments out of time (a mobile camera racing overhead through the period streets, over and around poles; Jonathan Pryce closing his hand as blood spills out of it from nowhere), but the scares are calibrated for 8-year-olds. As an adult, it's so self-consciously restrained it's hard to stay compelled. It's also hard for me to connect with Bradbury's rather purple prose…

  • Consuming Spirits

    Consuming Spirits

    ★★★

    Reviewed here.

  • Attack

    Attack

    ★★★

    Perfectly fine filmmaking, aside from the fact that the screenplay is a thoroughly inadequate adaptation of what must be a pretty bad play — lots of overheated shouting, complete with a long, torturous monologue in which Eddie Albert gets to explain his cowardice. (Who asked for a psychological explanation? His negative actions are all that matter.) Jack Palance does his beady-eyed thing, while Lee Marvin is magnificently Lee Marvin-ish, cutting every room down to size just by entering. Combat scenes…

  • A Man Vanishes

    A Man Vanishes

    ★★★

    Took me forever to discern that sound and vision were deliberately out of sync, not just the victim of impoverished post-dubbing, which certainly underlines the theme of the unreliability of filmed "documentation" but which (personal problem) might be the most irritating thing in the world to watch for 90 minutes. Sort of fascinating for the sheer number of interviewees (seems like a record), but all the IT'S NOT REAL IT'S CINEMA dicking-around gets old, not least when monologued into great…

  • An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

    An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

    ★★★

    The subject is involuted, downward-spiraling thought, the kind that's both wittily interesting to read and tediously self-exculpatory to be the oral receiver of. Meaning this is the closest thing I've seen to a David Foster Wallace adaptation, though it's definitely Too Much Of A Good Thing (I can only imagine what the 3-hour cut was like). Formal presentation of the same thing over and over flags, late-period peak being the pile of jealous eyeballs stop-motion twitching in non-observation. The total…